Conclusion: For a Specific Purpose

My experiences with the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced remain largely positive despite the test results; end users who need an inexpensive Mini-ITX case with stellar acoustic and thermal performance are probably going to have to spend the extra $30 for the BitFenix Prodigy and suffer with the larger size and slightly wonky stand. That doesn't mean the Elite 120 is a bust, far from it actually, but it does mean that you need to adjust your expectations of this case accordingly. Cooler Master is happy to market the case to you as being something more than it really is.

What is it, really? Fundamentally the Elite 120 is going to best serve a more modest system. In terms of performance hardware I don't think you would want to use a 95W quad core at anything higher than stock speeds, and I probably wouldn't consider a video card that requires an external power lead. The problem is the cooling system is just inadequate; for how beautiful the front design is, I get the sense that intake fan is either starving for air or just plain chintzy. Whatever air that does get through seems like it may also be slamming up against the drive cage, at least if the abnormally high temperatures on the SSD during our GeForce GTX 560 Ti test are any indication.

Don't think I'm not incredibly fond of the Elite 120, though. This is one of the more attractive Mini-ITX cases, heck one of the more attractive cases in general that I've seen in some time. The brushed aluminum fascia is beautiful, and the assembly is easy enough to make me wonder if a good, quiet system can't be built inside it. I think some real sacrifices were made to make sure the case could fit all ATX scale components (outside of the motherboard), but the flipside of that is that you don't wind up blowing all the money you saved on the case getting a slimline optical drive and a decent SFX power supply.

And you did save a decent chunk of change. What impressed me most about the Elite 120 was just how much Cooler Master crammed into the package for the price. Performance isn't going to blow anyone's minds, but at $49 it really doesn't have to. A visit to NewEgg reveals pickings around this price that are fairly slim in comparison, none of which sport at least a single USB 3.0 port. Bottom line: if you modulate your expectations accordingly, you can get a fine Mini-ITX case for not much money with the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced.

Noise and Thermal Testing, Dedicated GPU
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  • nakabaka - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Oh, and in addition to that comment I just posted, MY favorite mATX case of all time was that sweet little Elite 341. True it doesn't have much room in liu of hard drive bays, but I really only use 1 SDD these days, used to only use 1 HDD for my needs. The four 120mm fans without a drive cage to block intake flow from the front was beastly, and I still have two of those cases around.
  • jimbob343 - Monday, July 14, 2014 - link

    I have recently bought this case as I wanted a good looking small system to put on my desk that could take a full size GPU... and.... I've managed it...

    The photo taken with the ugly blu-ray drive doesn't do it justice.. and cooling...well...
    Change the fan on the side so it pulls in air into the case, the front fan removed for the water cooling FAN to the CPU which creates a lot more space in the case. Also add an extra fan on the side to pull more cool air in

    PSU is pulling the warmer air out of the case and circulating!

    A10 -7850k CPU
    Coolermaster seidon 120v
    GIGABYTE GA-F2A88XN motherboard
    EVGA GTX 780
    G-Skill Ripjaws X 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 PC3-14900 1866MHz
    Crucial CT240M500SSD1 SSD Hard drive
    Seagate 1TB Hard drive

    Case temp is 30, CPU is 30 on idle, 51 on full load! I'm no expect but I can live with these temps for what I have in it!
  • MaromG - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    Hi! Could I install 3 HDDs inside?
    I only want to install 3.5 inch drives.
    Can I use the default 2x3.5 inch bays and instead of the CD-ROM drive, install a 3.5 inch HDD using an adapter? It's a crucial point for me in deciding if I want to buy this product of not.

  • jimbob343 - Monday, July 14, 2014 - link

    Update.. Had Windows Update running so wasn't idle... Idle temp is 20c.
    Full load playing Titanfall on Insane quality.. 50c
  • wintermute000 - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    Yes I completely believe you that you can chuck a 100W card and a 95W CPU in there and get better performance than the reviewer in a tiny shoebox case with no clearance or airflow or ability to install a 'real' cooler. sure.

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